We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. -- Aristotle
By virtue of the fact that distance education is often characterised by multi-site teaching, as well as multiple forms of content delivery and assessment of learning, the implementation of systems and processes that ensure quality is necessary. In this regard, quality assurance refers to the establishment and maintenance of self-improving processes for the institution as well as for the programmes that are offered. Some of the areas where quality assurance is often carried out are listed below:
- Educational policy, planning and research
- Human resource development
- Management and administration of internal processes
- Budgets and financing
- Learner needs, learning support, assessment and communication
- Design of programmes of study, curriculum development and course design, and learning media.
In the field of ODL, quality education means that learners receive learning materials and instruction that is of a high standard. It also means that procedures for implementing processes that are inherent in an educational system, such as selection of instructors, evaluation criteria, examinations and administration are transparent and clear to all personnel. In order to implement systems and procedures that promote quality in distance education, policy makers may consider to the following points.
- Quality is everyone’s responsibility, and does not ‘belong’ to the department or personnel in charge of quality. Thus, processes related to self-improvement and identification of problems should be clearly transmitted and should involve everyone in an organisation.
- Quality assurance often involves a cyclical pattern that is ongoing as part of the life of an organisation. Thus, personnel should be involved in constant action, evaluation and revision of educational processes in order to achieve a more satisfying level of performance at every stage of the teaching and learning process. For example, test questions ought to be validated and pilot tested before they are administered each year.
- In order for everyone in organisation to be involved in quality assurance, there must be room for communication and critical comment on all educational processes. Such communication and commenting ought to be viewed as feedback from the members of an organisation, and has to be treated in the right spirit. In tandem to this, learners, instructors and administrators in an ODL institution must see that their comments are communicated to the right authority and that appropriate action is taken.
- The monitoring of all processes and systems requires systematic gathering of information and sharing of outcomes. In this way, the functioning of each system may be improved through discussion, suggesting best solutions and collective responsibility. Often, this procedure aids an organisation in addressing a problem before it becomes too large or difficult to handle.
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